References to "Climate Change" Removed from USGS Press Release

On July 8, 2019 E&E News reported that officials at the United States Geological Society (USGS) removed references to climate change from the text of a researcher-written news release about a study of the California coastline. The March 2019 press release highlighted how the study would be helpful in infrastructure planning for the coastline but omitted details about how climate change and sea-level rise could have a devastating financial impact on California, with damages totaling in excess of $100 billion. Sources at the USGS also claimed that agency officials delayed the release of the study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, by several months.

According to sources, this action reflects a pattern at USGS. While there is no indication that the nature of the underlying research has changed, it has become clear that references to climate change should be omitted from news releases. The California coastline study press release went through the office of James Reilly, the director of USGS, who is allegedly attempting to minimize the consideration of climate change in agency decisions. An earlier draft of the release (which was put online by the environmental group Blue Point Conservation Science) had compared the impact of climate change on California’s coast to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and detailed the study’s stark recommendations for coastal planners. In contrast, the final release focused on the methodology of the study and how it had relied on the latest computer models in coming up with the sea level rise predictions.